We come once again to the inviting, challenging, consoling season of Lent. I hope that all of us will hear and respond generously to the call to repent and believe that we receive with the imposition of ashes on our foreheads.
That call is different for every person. And for every person the call changes as we move through the years of our lives. Our challenge is to listen, to be attentive to what God might be asking of us and to be generous in our response to that call when we understand it.
In the classic practice of the church we prepare ourselves to listen and to respond to God’s Lenten call by the triple discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Through these exercises we dispose ourselves to be in right relationship with God, neighbor and ourselves. These practices are not ends in themselves. They are reminders of our need for internal conversion and a change of heart. They symbolize our desire to forget ourselves so that we might find God.
I know that you live a very busy life. But I do encourage you during this holy season to incorporate into your daily living some generous but reasonable expression of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
You might pray at the long red light or while waiting in line at the supermarket. How about passing on a latte each day and sending the money to Haiti relief or Operation Rice Bowl? Would you think of a letter to someone you know to be very lonely? And isn’t it about time to break the icy silence that has existed for too long between you and you-know-who? Do you have a moment and some energy to offer in your parish’s outreach activities? Is there a caregiver for whom you might provide a break? Have you said the rosary in a while? Or would you like to learn how to pray it?
There are so many small, ordinary ways in which we can remember and contemplate deep in our hearts the wonders of God’s compassionate and enduring love for every one of us. The disciplines of Lent are not an exercise of spiritual muscle flexing. They are our way of opening our hearts anew to the wonders of God’s love. Rejoicing in all of that turns our hearts toward and prepares us to renew our baptismal promises at Easter.
I hope that those of us who have already been baptized in the Lord can pray for one another during Lent that the Easter feast will find us excited about the life we enjoy and ready to share it with others. As we pray for one another, so too I hope we can pray for those who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil, and for those already baptized, who will be received into our faith community. Lent is a special time of prayer and preparation for them.
Peace to all.